Diving into the depths: Tampa Bay Rays

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Tampa Bay Rays
Rotation
1. James Shields
2. Matt Garza
3. Jeff Niemann
4. David Price
5. Wade Davis
6. Andy Sonnanstine
7. Jeremy Hellickson
8. Lance Cormier
9. Carlos Hernandez
10. Heath Phillips
11. Alex Torres
Davis impressed in his 2010 audition, going 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six starts last September, so he should enter camp as the clear favorite for the fifth spot over Sonnanstine.
Bullpen
1. Rafael Soriano
2. J.P. Howell
3. Grant Balfour
4. Dan Wheeler
5. Lance Cormier
6. Randy Choate
7. Andy Sonnanstine
8. Dale Thayer
9. Jeff Bennett
10. Jake McGee
11. Mike Ekstrom
12. Winston Abreu
13. R.J. Swindle
14. Paul Phillips
15. Eduardo Morlan
Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen and Chad Bradford all appear to be riding off into the sunset, but it’s not like any from the group made a real contribution last season anyway. Barring a Sonnanstine trade, the pitching staff would seem to be essentially set. It’s possible that either Choate or Sonnanstine could pitch his way off the team during spring training, but both should be penciled in for the moment.


Catcher
1. Kelly Shoppach
2. Dioner Navarro
3. Jose Lobaton
4. John Jaso
First base
1. Carlos Pena
2. Willy Aybar
3. Dan Johnson
4. Ryan Shealy
5. Chris Richard
Second base
1. Ben Zobrist
2. Willy Aybar
3. Sean Rodriguez
4. Reid Brignac
5. Elliot Johnson
Third base
1. Evan Longoria
2. Willy Aybar
3. Joe Dillon
4. Sean Rodriguez
Shortstop
1. Jason Bartlett
2. Reid Brignac
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Elliot Johnson
There’s been nothing to suggest that the Rays will pursue Felipe Lopez, so it looks like Zobrist will stay at second base. It makes him a bit more of an injury risk, but he’s pretty good defensively there, making him a whole lot more valuable than he’d be as a right fielder.
Left field
1. Carl Crawford
2. Sean Rodriguez
3. Gabe Kapler
4. Fernando Perez
5. Justin Ruggiano
6. Chris Richard
Center field
1. B.J. Upton
2. Fernando Perez
3. Desmond Jennings
4. Gabe Kapler
Right field
1. Matt Joyce
2. Gabe Kapler
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Justin Ruggiano
Designated hitter
1. Pat Burrell
2. Dan Johnson
3. Willy Aybar
The Rays might yet grab someone to compete with Joyce and Burrell for playing time. Jermaine Dye is one name that has come up. A reunion with Rocco Baldelli would also make some sense. Still, I think Joyce will be just fine as a right fielder against right-handers, especially since he’s a plus defender, and if he fails, then sticking Jennings in center and moving Upton to right might be an option by midseason.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: